Even the biggest Duke basketball fan would have to admit that superstar freshman Jabari Parker is in the midst of a midseason slump. In fact, Parker’s recent struggles have not coincidentally coincided with the Blue Devils' alarming stretch that includes losses to Notre Dame and Clemson and a near loss at home to Virginia.
Parker’s past five box scores are as follows:
Struggling from the field is one thing, but as Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo! Sports points out, Parker wasn’t trusted at the end of the Virginia game when his team absolutely needed a basket trailing by one in the final seconds:
Not long ago, Jabari Parker was the toast of college hoops and Rasheed Sulaimon was getting DNPs. Now Sulaimon has the ball at crunch time.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) January 14, 2014
At least Parker was on the floor in the closing minutes against the Cavaliers. He was benched against the Fighting Irish in the last three minutes in a 79-77 loss. It is rather shocking to think about the fact that arguably the most talented player in the country was riding the pine in a game that was decided by two points, regardless of his struggles during that game.
Whether this recent stretch is simply a freshman wall that Parker has run into and will eventually fight through or a sign of things to come will ultimately determine how the Blue Devils’ year will play out. There is enough talent in place to reach the Final Four, but in a one-and-done postseason format, a single off night could end the season.
However, the one thing that this recent dry spell won’t impact is Parker’s NBA draft status in 2014.
As difficult as it may be for college basketball fans who live and die by the exciting games that take place all season to hear, NBA scouts simply don’t care that much about how Parker performs against the likes of Georgia Tech and Clemson in January.
Sure, if these struggles become more of a systemic problem throughout the year, they will start to take notice, but these scouts and professional front offices are much more infatuated with the fact that Parker is 6’8”, can attack the rim off the dribble with an explosive first step and has three-point range.
It also matters more to these scouts that Parker is the exact prototype of the stretch forward that can handle the ball and has the versatility to play three or four positions that has taken the league by storm. Blame LeBron James and Kevin Durant all you want, but the days of athletic and multitalented small forwards are just beginning in the NBA.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports doesn’t believe that Parker’s recent slump will impact his draft stock in the slightest either:
Parker has cooled some since the start of the season and was even benched late during a loss at Notre Dame. Still, he's a pro shot-maker already and probably the prospect best equipped to immediately make significant contributions at the pro level.
Parrish placed Parker as the No. 2 pick in his latest mock draft behind only fellow freshman star Andrew Wiggins of Kansas (who just so happened to have had an up-and-down start to his season).
Who would you rather have?
There is a reason Sports Illustrated deemed Parker the best high school prospect since James was prowling the floor in Akron, Ohio. He has too much pure talent to let these recent struggles define his season, and with Mike Krzyzewski at the controls, he will break out of this slump going forward.
When he does, there will be plenty of struggling NBA teams ready to snap him up at the top of the draft.
Follow and interact with Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.